Life-cycle assessment of two sewage sludge-to-energy systems based on different sewage sludge characteristics: Energy balance and greenhouse gas-emission footprint analysis

Bin Dong , Renjie Chen , Shijie Yuan , Sisi Chen , Hanlin Ci , Xiaohu Dai , Xiankai Wang , Chong Li , Dianchang Wang


Received February 18, 2021,Revised , Accepted April 14, 2021, Available online May 14, 2021

Volume 34,2022,Pages 380-391

Anaerobic digestion and incineration are widely used sewage sludge (SS) treatment and disposal approaches to recovering energy from SS, but it is difficult to select a suitable technical process from the various technologies. In this study, life-cycle assessments were adopted to compare the energy- and greenhouse gas- (GHG) emission footprints of two sludge-to-energy systems. One system uses a combination of AD with incineration (the AI system), whereas the other was simplified by direct incineration (the DI system). Comparison between three SS feedstocks (VS/TS: 57.61 -73.1 ds.%) revealed that the AI system consistently outperformed the DI system. The results of sensitivity analyses showed that the energy and GHG emission performances were mainly affected by VS content of the SS, AD conversion efficiency, and the energy consumption of sludge drying. Furthermore, the energy and GHG emission credit of the two systems increased remarkably with the increase in the VS content of the SS. For the high-organic-content sludge (VS/TS: 55%–80%), the energy and GHG emission credit of the AI system increase with the increase of AD conversion efficiency. However, for the low organic content sludge (VS/TS: 30%–55%), it has the opposite effect. In terms of energy efficiency and GHG performance, the AI system is a good choice for the treatment of high-organic-content sludge (VS/TS>55%), but DI shows superiority over AI when dealing with low organic content sludge (VS/TS<55%).

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